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Artnet News
Aug. 4, 2009 

Could the right wing be trying to launch a new culture war, demonizing those pervert art groups out there in San Francisco? Sure they could! According to MediaMatters, a gang of wingnut blowhards -- Fox NewsGlenn Beck and Greta Van Susteren, the Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Moore and Fox Business' Eric Bolling (all employees of Rupert Murdoch-owned media properties, as it happens) -- have singled out for abuse a few recipients of federal economic stimulus grants recently awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts [see "Artnet News," July 8, 2009].

Out of the paltry $80-million art stimulus [Correction: The actual NEA stimulus amount is, of course, $50-million; the $80-million figure is yet another bit of Fox misinformation], the conservative commentators have focused on a single $50,000 award to San Francisco’s well-respected Frameline, the organization that produces the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival. The Fox hosts seemed especially stirred up by the fact that Frameline recently sponsored a screening of the campy 1975 film Thundercrack! (whose own fan website celebrates it as garnering "the most extreme praise or vile hatred from critics"), which combines a murder mystery with hard-core sex content. The film was shown for one night during the most recent LGBT film festival, June 18-28, 2009. The festival screened a total of 226 films, and was attended by over 60,000 people, according to organizers.

A second touchstone for conservative ire is a $20,000 grant for CounterPULSE, a dance and performance art space that hosts among other things, a cabaret dubbed -- wait for it -- Perverts Put Out! On its website, the cabaret says that it does not, in fact, receive any stimulus money, though cabaret "co-host Simon Sheppard sure does have a major chubby for studly Glenn Beck!" Other admirable events that CounterPULSE organizes or hosts -- not mentioned by Fox -- are a labor history bicycle tour and Performing Diaspora, a festival and residency program dedicated to artists from diverse cultures who want to expand or explore traditional forms.

MediaMatters points out that government funding for such groups is hardly new -- both Frameline and CounterPULSE were regular recipients of grants during the administration of George W. Bush.

The jobless rate is up, houses aren’t selling, pensions are shrinking or disappearing altogether, but the Lords of Wall Street are taking home billions in bonuses. Makes you mad, doesn’t it? Well, what if we told you that some fraction of those billions was trickling down to those of you in the art business?

So it is with Andrew J. Hall, the lean and handsome Connecticut-based art collector (known familiarly as "Andy") who made the front page of the New York Times last weekend with the news that he is due a $100-million payout from Citigroup, the troubled superbank that received $45 billion in taxpayer funds. The Britain-raised Hall, 58, heads the commodities trading firm Phibro, and apparently made some saavy moves in the oil market. The bonus has come under fire from the White House, which called it "out of whack," and columnist Paul Krugman, who wrote, "It’s hard to see the social value of what he does."

One thing he does is channel his profits into art. According to press reports, Hall owns some 4,000 works in what New York dealer Mary Boone called "one of the world’s finest collections of contemporary art." He also bought Schloss Dernberg, a medieval castle in Germany, from artist Georg Baselitz, with an eye to turning the 150-room pile into a private museum. Hey Andy, call us! 

Michelle Grabner and Brad Killam, founders of the ten-year-old The Suburban gallery in suburban Oak Park outside Chicago, are taking their project on the road. Specifically, they’re taking it to Waupaca County in central Wisconsin, where an 8,000-square-foot, 1876 structure of stone and brick -- a building once housing an actual 19th-century American poor farm, a county-run working farm for the destitute -- is being converted into a space for art and artists.

Art programming at the one-time Waupaca County Poor Farm is slated to begin in 2010, but in the meantime -- this weekend, Aug. 7-9, 2009 -- the building is housing "The Great Poor Farm Experiment," a three-day open house and art show. Campsites are available; a cookout and Little Wolf River tube float are on the sched. Among the almost 30 artists taking part are Stephanie Barber, Olivier Mosset, Sabina Ott, Yogi Proctor, David Robbins, Shane Aslan Selzer, Aaron Van Dyke and Pedro Velez. For more info, contact Michelle Grabner at

Did someone say that new art was all about youth? The Kunsthaus Baselland in Basel, Switzerland, is taking a contrary view with "Golden Agers & Silver Surfers Kunst," Aug. 9-Oct. 4, 2009, an exhibition devoted to "old age and aging in contemporary art." A project of Christoph Doswald and Savine Schaschl, the show looks at the new reality of "power aging" via works by Keren Cytter, Regine von Felten, Manuel Graf, Gabriela Gyr, Melli Ink, Bruno Jakob, Stephan Melzl, Ryan Mosley, Thomas Müllenbach, Paul Pretzer, Julika Rudelius, Max Philipp Schmid, Gitte Villesen, Herbert Weber, Charlie White, Anna Winteler and Miwa Yanagi. For more info, see

This morning saw two museum directors at small, financially troubled institutions quit unexpectedly -- a sign of the stress that tightened budget regimes are placing on museums everywhere. First up, in Providence, R.I., the RISD Museum at the Rhode Island School of Design announced the resignation of its director Hope Alswang. No real reason was given -- a statement from the college said she was pursuing "other opportunities," and the Providence Journal called it a "surprise move" -- but it is notable that the RISD Museum has been hit by budget cuts, and recently decided to close its doors for all of August in order to save money. Alswang had served as director since 2005. Her resignation is effective immediately. The museum's assistant director of planning, Ann Woolsey, is her successor in the interim.

Meanwhile, down in Sarasota, Fla., John Wetenhall, executive director of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, also announced his resignation this morning, effective immediately. The move was sudden, and barely explained, with Wetenhall issuing a statement that lists his achievements and notes that "it is now time for me to move on to pursue other challenges." A division of Florida State University, the Ringling has lost $2.3 million in state funding over the last two years and cut its staff by 25 positions. Wetenhall has been at the Ringling since 2001. Marshall Rousseau, a member of the museum’s board of directors, takes over as interim director.

The CultureBus is no more. The agency in charge of public transportation in San Francisco, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), has announced that it is discontinuing the initiative, which began last September, as of Aug. 15. The CultureBus linked the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Asian Art Museum, the de Young Museum and the California Academy of Sciences, and, as its website states, was "designed to provide both residents and visitors with a new eco-friendly transportation alternative to and between San Francisco's popular museums and cultural institutions." A spokesman for the SFMTA said that the move was part of larger budget-cutting measures -- the agency faces a $129-million deficit.

Art dealers, want to exhibit in an art fair? Volta 6, slated to go on view June 15-20, 2010, in Basel, is widely considered to be the number two art fair in the summer art blow-out, following Art Basel itself. Now, as of Aug. 10, 2009, Volta is accepting applications online, via The curatorial committee consists of Kunsthaus Graz curator Adam Budak, São Paolo-based curator Jacopo Crivelli Visconti, Zürich-based critic and curator Christoph Doswald, Vienna-based curator and writer Jasper Sharp, and Smart Museum of Art curator Stephanie Smith. The application deadline is Sept. 15, 2009.

Add one more new gallery to your roster of new spaces in Santa Fe [see "Artnet News," July 30, 2009]. Robert Casterline, founder of the Aspen-based Museum Works Galleries, has launched a branch of Museum Works Galleries at 135 West Palace in Santa Fe. Casterline handles works by artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, as well as his own stable, including Marcus Jansen, James Wolanin and Danielle Procaccio. "Investing in tangible assets makes sense during uncertain times," says Casterline. For more info, call (970) 948-0393.

Summer vacationers are invited to view artist Kevin Barrett overseeing the installation of Scarlet, his new, nine-foot-tall bright red abstract sculpture, on Shelter Island on Friday, Aug. 7, 2009, from 11:30 am to 2 pm. The new work goes on view in the heart of Shelter Island Heights at Chase and Grand Streets, on property owned by filmmaker Robert Leacock, near the Marie Eiffel Boutique, and is slated to remain until the fall of 2010. For further information, contact C Fine Art.

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